Artificial intelligence and "connected tech"
The House of Commons Library has published a research briefing on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and employment law.
The briefing provides an introduction to AI and considers the various uses of AI at work. It also identifies the employment law implications of its use and sets out current proposals for regulatory reform.
The briefing notes that the use of AI has an impact on common law, in particular the duty of mutual trust and confidence and the requirement for employers to be able to explain decisions. It also impacts on the Equality Act 2010 due to the potential for bias and discrimination when using AI tools.
Where AI has been involved in a dismissal decision, the Employment Rights Act 1996 is brought into play. The workings of algorithms to explain decisions to dismiss may make explaining such decisions difficult. There will also be impacts on the right to privacy under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights especially where workers are monitored.
The briefing provides a summary of the government's approach to regulation of AI as set out in its March 2023 AI white paper, the responses that have been received to that approach and alternative policy proposals that have been put forward. The white paper sets out five principles that the government expects existing regulators to implement: safety, security and robustness; transparency and explainability; fairness; accountability and governance, and contestability and redress. These principles aim to guide responsible AI design, development and use and are currently non-statutory, although the government has said that it may introduce a statutory duty for regulators to have due regard to the principles at a later date.
Meanwhile the Culture, Media and Sport Committee published a report, 'Connected tech: smart or sinister?', on 7 August which considers the possible benefits and harms of using devices connected to the internet or other digital networks ("connected technology") in various contexts.
In terms of how connected tech is used within the workplace, the report recommends that the monitoring of employees should be done only in consultation with, and with the consent of, those being monitored. It also recommends that the Information Commissioner's Office should develop its draft guidance, 'Employment practices: monitoring at work', into a principles-based code for designers and operators of workplace connected tech.
The report recommends that the government should commission research to improve the evidence base regarding the deployment of automated and data collection systems at work, as well as clarifying the role of the Health and Safety Executive in the regulation of Artificial Intelligence.
The report identifies both positive and negative impacts arising from use of technology within the workplace. On the positive side it improves efficiency and enables those traditionally excluded from work (people with disabilities or those living in rural areas) to work from home. On the negative side the micro-determination of time and movement tracking through connected devices has resulted in workers experiencing greater stress and anxiety.
We discussed tech in the workplace in our recent Trowers Tuesday 'Is the increased use of IT in HR matters a good thing or a legal minefield?'.